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SAVOY 853; JULY 1952



Well, well, well… look who’s back in town!

Where have ya been, Eddie? It’s been a long time since we’ve seen you around these parts. More than two whole years, isn’t it?

What happened to you? After that initial flurry of rock records including some legitimate hits over seven months as the 1940’s gave way to the 1950’s you up and vanished just as rock was cementing its status in the music world.

A lot has happened since you’ve been gone… for one thing there’s a lot more competition to contend with. The genre is thriving, the records from across the rock spectrum are dominating the charts and the stylistic variations that have come about during that time have made your old approach somewhat dated.

But hey, let’s not dwell on that, we’re just happy you’ve dropped in to see us and catch up a bit. Around here we always have time for old friends.


Who Changed The Lock On The Door?
When rock ‘n’ roll began to grow in popularity in the late 1940’s Apollo Records needed someone who could reasonably fit the bill and signed Eddie Mack, a former singer with Cootie Williams’s uptown jazz-blues outfit a few years earlier. Despite turning in some good performances in the role, Apollo’s commitment to rock waned and he was dropped from the label in mid-1950.

Now Savoy Records, a label with a better past in this field than Apollo, were suddenly at risk of becoming increasingly irrelevant in rock ‘n’ roll after losing some of their biggest stars in rapid succession. As a result they recruited him to shore up their own dwindling rock roster.

On paper this is a long shot. He’s been two years out of the spotlight and it’s doubtful many current rock fans remember much about him, that is if they even recognize the name at all. Surely the “blues” in the title isn’t doing their marketing of this to the right audience much good either. But if the right ears happened to catch wind of Key Hole Blues there’s still an outside chance that the song itself and the performance of Mack and a very capable band would be enough to win them over.

No, it’s not going to be setting any trends, and while it’s a suitably vigorous presentation that will allow it to fit right in the existing landscape today, it’s probably still not dynamic enough or memorable enough to climb the charts at this stage. But as comeback stories go this is actually about as good as we could hope to expect from somebody who’s been away so long and seemed unlikely to ever appear on our radar again.

That in of itself is reason enough to be glad he’s come around for a visit.


I Thought I Better Listen
With the staged lead-in comprised of knocking and a spoken intro to set up the story in a mildly amusing manner, this gives some indication that they’re facing an uphill battle to bring themselves up to date in this day and age.

Though it’s hardly off-putting or out of place, that type of presentation is something that was more suited for rock during Eddie Mack’s first service hitch. Now this kind of thing seems a little contrived and unnecessary, especially when the music that follows gets this off to a perfectly fine start without the need for any introductory scene.

Mack certainly hasn’t lost any of his expressive power since we’ve last heard from him. He’s not only in good voice but just as importantly has the right attitude to go with it, delivering the rather standard story of a spurned guy who returns home to find his girlfriend has locked him out with suitable fervor.

There’s definitely no surprises to be found in the narrative, it’s actually using rather literal descriptions rather than choosing allegorical ones which might provide him with more options, but the lyrics themselves are still well-crafted and if it’s a paint by numbers technique we can at least say they keep the colors within the lines so it all comes off looking really good.

Like the story, the music contained within Key Hole Blues is pretty cut and dried, but that doesn’t mean it’s not effective. With a discreetly romping beat featuring strong drumming while supplemented by horns and a faint guitar, the structure is one we’ve heard dozens… hundreds?… of times before with its stop-time vocal sections that contain the actual verses to move the story forward, buttressed by more emphatic horn blasts.

Because of this, the chorus is sort of disguised – it kicks off the song so we tend not to think of it the same way as we would if it came after the first stanza – and as a result it seems to actually take longer to progress, almost as if it was rambling along aimlessly rather than presenting everything in a more compact manner, and so the first time through you might think for a second that they forgot the instrumental break.

Have no fear, they not only get to it but it was worth the wait as this features a buzzing tenor that initially disdains melody altogether so it can create a simmering vibe before finally diversifying the notes to give it more structure while the baritone lends some depth behind it. Then, just as you figure it’s going to shift back to the vocals, we get a sizzling Mickey Baker guitar solo instead and it’s like sticking a fork in the electrical outlet, shocking you with how invigorating it is.

From there on in Mack just has to avoid falling on his face or swallowing his tongue to get this to the finish line. He does neither of those thankfully and so we’re pretty confident in calling this modest effort a success.


I’m Wondering Pretty Baby If You’ve Gone And Put Me Down
We hate to think about this, but so much of your path in life is simply a matter of timing.

Mack Edmundson was born sometime around the point where the country had just gone through the Spanish Influenza epidemic and by escaping its clutches it was a good bet that he’d made it through the biggest obstacle he was likely to face for a long healthy life… until World War Two came along just as he hit draft age. Though he avoided both of those dire fates, a less deadly fate caught him smack dab between the eyes when he became a professional singer in the days before a style he was perfectly suited for called rock ‘n’ roll was invented.

We don’t know if Eddie Mack would’ve been an all-time great had he come of age eight years to ten years later, but there’s a reasonable chance that he would’ve at least been ticketed for stardom. Though Key Hole Blues is hardly anything special, it’s remarkably competent for somebody who’d been away from our field for more than two whole years and had released only a few rockers prior to that.

Had he gotten more chances it stands to reason with his natural affinity for this approach he’d have gotten some hits along the way which leads not only to more chances but more confidence and more ambition to take the genre further and make a name for yourself in the process.

Instead, because of where he was in life when rock hit, he essentially became a journeyman vocalist who from time to time would be signed by a label in search of someone reliable to get them through a fallow period when their roster was depleted, not even hoping for hits as much as just counting on his records to provide the distributors with new releases to keep the company looking as though they were remaining productive.

Though there’s not much chance for personal recognition in that, I suppose it’s still better than being killed by the flu as an infant or getting blown to bits by a landmine on the beaches of Normandy.


(Visit the Artist page of Eddie Mack for the complete archive of his records reviewed to date)